The story begins in a booming Philadelphia in the late 1800s. White-collar workers are flooding into the offices of newly built skyscrapers, and lunchrooms are springing up to feed them. Coentrepreneurs Joseph Horn and Frank Hardart seize their chance and by the early 1900s have BUILT a thriving chain of small restaurants and cafeterias, the latter a brand new trend of its own. Hardart brings back from Europe inspiration for the Automat, a ‘waiterless’ cafeteria that proves enormously popular, making the Horn and Hardart chain the dominant American restaurant company for the next half century. Kings of the New York and Philly restaurant scenes, the Automats feed millions throughout the Depression and two World Wars, serving all comers in palaces of marble, silver, and steel. Good food served cheap, and the enduring thrill of the automat machines themselves wins the Automat a place in our culture and hearts alike.